The question I want to explore today is who is the “neighbor” mentioned in the 9th Word of God of “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor”?
See, this commandment is the first to explicitly identify the person to whom an Israelite adult male has an obligation, his “neighbor”.
Well, the short, quick, and precise answer is that according to biblical law, a neighbor is a fellow Israelite, period.
In the Decalogue, we will actually find explicit references to the following three different social groups.
-Members of one’s extended family or one’s kin
-a member of one’s people group, a fellow Israelite
-The non-Israelite resident alien living amongst the Israelites
And in ancient Israel, a person had different degrees of obligation to each of these groups.
Now out of these three groups, the highest obligation was to one’s “brother”-in other words a member of one’s family.
Obviously, the 5th Word of “to honor your father and mother” is dealing with this commandment.
The second highest obligation was to a fellow Israelite, a native-born from among the 12 tribes.
Again, this person was distinguished from a non-Israelite resident alien.
The following verses from Leviticus speak to this.
“‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart.
Rebuke your neighbor frankly
so you will not share in their guilt.
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge
against anyone among your people,
but love your neighbor as yourself.
I am the Lord.”
The 9th and 10th Words from the decalogue are directed to this social group.
I can’t help but point out the “love your neighbor as yourself” verse mentioned above.
That’s right, this concept finds its roots right here in the TANACH, it was NOT some revolutionary New Testament concept.
Yeshua was quoting straight from the Book of Leviticus.
And finally, the third highest obligation was to the resident alien.
“‘If a foreigner stays with you in your land,
do not do him wrong.
Rather, treat the foreigner staying with you
like the native-born among you —
you are to love him as yourself,
for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt;
I am Adonai your God.”
Another interesting point that I can’t help but point out is that the obligation to “keep the Sabbath”, the 4th Word, is also to apply to the resident alien.
This just supports everything I’ve been saying about the Sabbath so far.
That it was created and sanctified at the creation of the universe BEFORE there ever was a nation of Israel and that Yeshua Himself said that the Sabbath was made for all mankind (Mark 2:27).
It is the topic of the resident alien that serves as my spiritual takeaway for today.
The way the Torah deals with the “resident alien” is what makes the Hebrew religion soooooooooo awesome!
While it is true that the status of the neighbor and that of the resident alien were legally distinct, the repeated legal and prophetic reminders to love both as oneself in the Scriptures teach us a powerful lesson.
The Israelite’s obligations to his neighbor were equally applicable to resident aliens.
And Yeshua Himself expounded on this concept in his Good Samaritan parable.
“You should have one law for the resident alien and the native born citizen”
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating.
Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer,
he asked him,
“Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this:
‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your mind
and with all your strength.’
The second is this:
‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
There is no commandment greater than these.”